Sunday, May 29, 2005
ISLAMABAD, Investigators have found the head of a suicide bomber who attacked a Muslim festival in the Pakistani capital, killing at least 19 people, and are trying to establish his identity, officials said on Saturday.
The attack occurred on Friday at Islamabad's Bari Imam shrine, less than half a mile from Pakistan's main government buildings and diplomatic enclave.
It was the latest incident of religious violence to rock Pakistan since it joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, but the worst-ever attack since then in the capital, which has largely been spared militant attacks.
The bomber blew himself up in a gathering of minority Shiite Muslims at a festival also attended by majority Sunnis.
Nineteen people were killed and 65 wounded, six critically. Officials said most of the victims were Shiites.
Authorities have circulated a picture of the suspected bomber, shown with a bloodstained, clean-shaven face and announced an $8,300 reward for information.
The blast came as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was concluding a visit to the country.
Rocca expressed condolences. "This was a horrible thing to have happened," she told private Geo TV in an interview shown on Saturday. "This is a tragedy for Pakistan."
The Bari Imam shrine is dedicated to Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi, a 17th century scholar known for his religious writings and also called Bari Imam. He is Islamabad's patron saint. Friday's ceremony was one held annually to pay homage to him.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said it was too early to be sure about motive for the attack, but the involvement of sectarian militants could not be ruled out.
Most of the recent attacks have been attributed to Sunni militants with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, condemned the attack and said Pakistan needed to follow a moderate form of Islam.